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Canton artist shares his painting and design skills with high school students

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CANTON — Not many people get to wear paint-splattered sweatshirts to their jobs.

William A. Newman is one of them, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

For about the past six years, the 62-year-old has worked with high school students enrolled in the technical theater class at Canton Central School District.

The part-time job mostly involves teaching class members how to build and paint sets for theater productions, including this weekend’s performance of “You Can’t Take It With You.”

With his wooden cane in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, Mr. Newman said he has no plans to slow down any time soon.

“I want to just keel over while I’m painting or drawing something,” he said Tuesday. “I love to paint. I love to design things. I just fell into this and I love working with the kids.”

His employment at Canton Central is paid through a Teaching Artists’ Fund awarded by the St. Lawrence County Arts Council.

Although he received a fine arts degree from St. Lawrence University, Mr. Newman spent most of his adult life as a farmer at the Route 68 homestead where he has lived his entire life.

At age 38 he decided to launch his art career. Besides his work at Canton Central, he has helped design sets for theater productions at St. Lawrence University and SUNY Potsdam and for Community Command Performance’s summer shows.

Kimberly A. Busch, a music teacher who instructs Canton’s tech theater class, said the students have a chance to learn a great deal from Mr. Newman.

“He’s wonderful with the students. He’s great at understanding how to simplify and explain painting techniques and get professional results from students,” she said.

MacKenzie A. Barry, a freshman, said she has been surprised to learn how much time and energy is involved in building theater sets.

“I like to paint, and I like doing the behind the scenes work,” the 14-year-old said. “I never really knew it was this much work to get ready for a show.”

Her classmate Kegan T. Sovay, 16, said he helped build the wooden flats for this weekend’s show. The work involved cutting wood and using tools.

“It’s cool to see how the play is put together. There’s a lot more to it than I thought,” he said.

The three-act comedy is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Canton’s Hugh C. Williams High School auditorium. Tickets are available at the school office or at the door, $8 general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens.

Cast members are Rachel Horwitz, Maddy Mallette, Hailey Leonard, Eric Gagliardi, Brandon Calton, Jake Beaudette, Zach McDonald, Zach Barnes, Sarah Rivers, Isaac Ballard, Justin Sosebee, Ryan Martin, Jana Prudhomme, Luke Frazer, Rachel Moses, Zach Laddison, Kiersten Larabee, John Romanelli and Anna Monroe.

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